Daily Archives: August 7, 2012

"Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

I checked this book out of the library because I’ve tried to make bread at home before and failed.  Well, “failed” might be the wrong word.  It was a long, arduous, involved process and then I could not get the loaves of bread out of the pan.  Even when I’ve used a bread maker, the crust is so hard and thick if cooked in the bread maker and if I cooked it in the oven, once again, I could not get the loaf out of the pan without destroying it.  So I gave up.  Then I saw this book title and decided to give it a try.  I was doubtful of the “Five Minutes a Day” part.
Well, I’m happy to say that I can make bread now, it does not take a lot of time and it turns out pretty darn well!  Just take a look at the loaves I’ve made in the last week and a half…
My two favorite parts of making bread this way – I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer to make the dough and there is no kneading!  You can mix the dough in a bowl with a wooden spoon, too, so don’t think you need a mixer.  I am just happy to have an excuse to use that dough hook on my Kitchen-Aid.  ;o)  The dough is wetter than most standard bread dough.  I mix up a batch that makes 4, 1-lb loaves, put the dough in a food-grade bucket with a non-airtight lid, let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours then store it in the fridge for up to 14 days!  When I’m ready to make bread, I pull off a loaf’s worth with floured hands, stretch the dough out and fold it under itself for 30 – 60 seconds to make a nice ball and let it rest for 40 minutes on the counter.
Now, the book says to let the dough rest on a cornmeal-laced pizza peal.  I do not have a pizza peal.  I used parchment paper for the 1st 3 loaves and then ran out (I did not have much) and have been using the underside of a paper plate since then.
After 20 minutes of the 40 minutes of rest have gone by, the book says to turn your oven on to 450.  At the end of the 40 minutes, you put the bread in the oven and your oven is not supposed to be up to that temp yet.  My convection oven got to 450 in 11 minutes and the 1st loaf I made did not rise much.  Plus it tasted strongly of sourdough.  So the 2nd and all other loaves, I’ve baked in the non-convection oven and turned it on with only 10 minutes left of the 40 minutes to ensure it is not up to 450 before I put in the loaf.
When you turn the oven on, you are to place a pizza stone on the middle rack and a baking sheet on another rack.  When you put the dough in the oven on the pizza stone, you also pour 1 cup of hot tap water onto the baking sheet to create steam.  30 minutes later, I have a wonderful loaf of freshly baked bread!  These are small loaves and we’ve been going through 1/2 – 3/4 of a loaf with dinner (and some after dinner snacking).  Tonight I am going to use the half a loaf left over form last night and the leftover heels from a couple of other loaves, to make French toast.  We’re having a breakfast dinner.  I bet this bread would make great croutons and bread pudding.
All I’ve made so far is The Master Recipe.  However, the book is full of recipes, some variations you can make on The Master Recipe (i.e. baguette, ciabatta, herb or cheese, etc.) plus plenty other loaves, pizzas and pastries (i.e. olive, rye, pumpernickel, pizza, calzone, challah, pecan caramel rolls, etc.).  On my list to try is rye, pumpernickel, herb and cheddar.
If you like to bake your own bread, have been wanting to try your hand at it or, like me, have tried before and failed, Ihighly recommend you checking this book out and giving it a try!
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